Bookmarks for December 30th through January 9th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Bookmarks for June 7th through June 17th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

OpenSpaceDevon

Carl Haggerty has launched a great initiative down in Devon:

Carl writes:

It would be great to get public sector professionals, voluntary organisations and business people involved in these areas all together and working through some of these issues and topics – Basically, i’d imagine the event to involve anyone who has an interest and passion to improve public services in general.

This is an interesting idea, and one I’m totally in agreement with. Take the format used by LocalGovCamp and other unconferences, but make it all about the geographical area. Bring together public, third and private sectors to thrash out new ways of doing things, and hopefully spark the enthusiasm needed for some of the organisational battles required to get stuff moving.

Just the sort of event I was thinking about when I wrote this post after the Lincoln LocalGovCamp.

So if you are in Devon, or just interested, pop along to the network Carl has created and join in the discussions!

OpenSocitm

Socitm

I had an interesting time at Socitm09 – a lot of the conversations I had were useful, and others fruitful. I won’t lie to you, though, a lot of what I saw and heard I found pretty painful. My Twitter followers will no doubt know the exact point at which my frustration boiled over somewhat.

One of the highlights for me, though, was the twenty minutes Mary and I spent with Adrian Hancock, MD of Socitm, and a forward thinking chap if ever there was one. His plans for the organisation are certainly going to lead it in the right direction.

We’ve already put one of the things we talked about into action, and that’s OpenSocitm. This is a simple Ning based online community for Socitm members and non-members to talk about the organisation and what they would like to get out of it. At Learning Pool, we understand community and its importance, and we’re eager to share that with other organisations that would like to work with us.

We hope it will become a space for the more forward thinking among Socitm’s ranks to get together and contribute to the ongoing discussions about what Socitm should look like in the future.

Because Socitm, like any other membership organisations, faces massive challenges in this age of self-organising and free and simple social networks. Put simply: why should I pay a subscription to Socitm when I can create a Facebook group and talk to people that way?

This is picking up on the pioneering work started by David Wilcox with the RSA (I’m a fellow of the RSA and was involved in David’s work here), which has developed in various directions, some official, some less so, based around the OpenRSA concept. Basically: identify the enthusiastic, the innovative and the people with ideas and put them in a space together – and watch and act on what happens.

My view – which David shares, I’m sure – is that for membership bodies to remain relevant in the networked society, they must learn to start listening to their membership like never before. Develop services around the explicit needs as expressed by members in social online spaces. Accept messiness. Acknowledge the fact that membership might mean different things to different people, and that just because someone doesn’t hold a card, it doesn’t mean they have nothing valuable to contribute.

I’ve no doubt that Adrian gets this, and that OpenSocitm will provide a useful channel of ideas and suggestions for the future of Socitm for him and his colleagues to act upon. He’s already started blogging about it.

UKGovCamp 2010 taking shape

After just one day, interest is already starting to build up for January’s barcamp. We have had a tonne of responses to the register of interest form, which is awesome, and have made significant headway in getting the venue arranged.

More on that as soon as I know it.

In the meantime, I’ve been doing some gardening on the community site we have set up on Ning. Deleting spammers, starting new conversations and creating some new groups.

We now have specific groups to discuss government data sharing and cloud computing – both hot topics. Make sure you sign up and jump into the conversations about these two topics.

Convening through reporting

David Wilcox has published another great thought-piece on social reporting and exactly what it is and where it fits:

I’m delighted to find there’s increasing interest in social reporting around events … which may start with an enquiry about how to capture some video interviews, but can lead to a discussion about how an organisation may network with its members, clients or customers.

David, along with some colleagues, is building up some resources on social reporting, including a wiki and a toolkit.

He also mentions some of the stuff I have been doing:

Nevertheless, more and more corporate and public sector event organisers are interested in social reporting, not least through the efforts of Dave Briggs, who is a real wizard with different social tools. I must compare notes with Dave on his use of Ning for UKGovCamp09, where all participants get a profile and personal blog with ability to contribute their own photos, videos and forum comments. It is a great environment within which anyone attending an event can become a social reporter, learn about social tools, and develop new relationships online that build from connections made at the event.

What Dave is starting to do, I think, is show a way forward for social reporting as one way in which an organisation can use its events to develop the new convening role that Clay Shirky talked about in his interview with Amy Sample Ward. My analysis here.

The use of Ning to build up buzz before, during and after an event was really brought to my attention by Tim Davies with the Youth Work Online event and network. That really showed what could be done by giving people a place to meet and talk before turning up to an event, and to report and develop ideas afterwards. As much as I would like to take the credit, I really can’t!

However, especially with UKGovWeb, the people participating are already heavily networked and web-savvy. It’s also a bunch of people who don’t have a comprehensive, open online community to join, so I really hit the ground running in a way that I don’t think would happen with a different group.

Elsewhere on the social reporting front, I’ve done three bits of work using a modified WordPress template which aggregates different feeds using tags on services like Flickr, delicious, Twitter and others. It’s not perfect, but it worked well with Cisco, IDeA and the Social Media Exchange.

The beauty of this approach is that it isn’t ‘just’ an aggregator – being built on WordPress there is a blog there too, so if others want to be able to contribute by blogging for the first time, in a ‘safe’ environment, they can. Using something like PageFlakes to map what’s being said on the web misses this learning opportunity.

(Incidentally, I’m in the process of rewriting the social reporting WordPress theme entirely. It’s going to be a lot slicker, and will be much easier for people to use – telling it what tags to track will be a matter of setting an option in the WordPress admin panel, likewise changing basic colours and a logo.)

I think, in the end, that it comes down to what the purpose of the online reporting is. Some people just want a record of what happened, some people want to build something that people will use again and again in the future. Either way, I think it begins to blur the edges of an organisation just a little bit.

Some Holiday Picks

Photo credit: Ravages

I’ve seen some interesting stuff pop up in my RSS over the last few days – here’s some of them:

  • Shel Holtz has a really interesting post about using Ning as a communication and collaboration platform for projects.
  • BookSprouts is an online community for readers. There are others.
  • MacMod will be a Mac only social network
  • Neville has been having problems with his iPhone. I’m waiting on a call from my local Apple Store for my second replacement. They really are the Alpha Romeo of smartphones.
  • John Self picks his books of 2008.
  • TweeTree is a new service that does what Quotably used to do: put Twitter conversations into a sensible, threaded order.

Barcamp on Ning

The upcoming Barcamp for UK government webby stuff now has a social network, thanks to Ning!

In many ways, this is a copycat …err… following good practice attempt after the excellent network set up by Tim Davies for the UK Youth Online event back in September. Having a more social environment for people to talk to each other before, during and after the event might help foster connections made and help get things done.

Of course, it isn’t to everyone’s taste and those that prefer email can stick with the Google Group and dedicated wiki-ers can use GovHack or the event wiki if they choose to.

I’m overcoming some of the issues I have had with Ning – a lot of the designs are now cleaner than earlier efforts, they are making a good fist (sorry) at getting rid of the ‘adult’ networks, and it’s easy to pull in content from elsewhere. Also, the simple act of paying a bit to get rid of the ads improves things.

So do swing by http://www.ukgovweb.org/ even if you can’t make it on the day to be a part of the conversations around this great event!

Local community networks with Ning

I’ve always been a little uncertain of Ning, the service that allows you to create your own social networks. I’m not sure why: possibly a comination of them looking rather samey (certainly in the early days), and being – to me – a little unintuitive to use. Plus there’s always been the fact that you share a service with a bunch of porn barons.

However, recent uses of the platform have made me rethink my position. Firstly, there is Tim DaviesUKYouthOnline network, started as a way of communicating with people attending the upcoming unconference, but now developing into something rather bigger than that. Tim’s customisation of his network turned it into a really nice looking site, and while I still have reservations about having blogs and a forum on one site, it doesn’t look too busy.

Next up, a Sunday tweet from Steph alerted me to a Ning network that had been created for his local area, Beckenham. Originally put together to discuss issues around parking in the area, people are using blogs to raise and chat about other topics, too. I had never really thought about Ning for local networks, to be honest, always thinking that a reporting style blog, and use of common tags, would be the best way to go about things. But with Ning, you can allow people to upload stuff directly, or aggregate it from other places, whether through built in services or just by hooking up to the RSS feed.

For a local residents’ network, then, Ning is pretty good. One issue is that I haven’t tested it out on legacy browsers, like ancient version of Internet Explorer which could still be residing on people’s computers. It’s certainly made be reconsider some of the stuff in my plan for building local online communities though.

A couple of pieces of advice though, if you are planning to use Ning:

  • Think carefully about the functionality you enable. Forums, blogs, chat, notes… do you really need them all? What you don’t want to happen is for someone who wants to post something getting frustrated because they don’t know which is the best medium
  • It might be a good idea to pay to get rid of the ads – Ning seems to throw up a lot for online dating, etc, which might not be the right thing for your community’s image.

One issue I still have with Ning though: when am I logged in and not logged in? If I log in at ning.com, I still have to re-enter my credentials to get into individual networks. And sometimes I have to enter a master key, and sometimes not. It’s confusing!